Paul Maheke: Levant

November 13–December 15, 2019

Opening Nov 13, 6–9pm


Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38 is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of French artist and choreographer Paul Maheke in the US. Levant is an installation by Maheke incorporating a video of the same title made in collaboration with dancer and choreographer Ligia Lewis and experimental musician Melika Ngombe Kolongo, aka Nkisi. The English term “levant” designates the act of running away and leaving unpaid debts. 

Maheke considers the body as a container for memories and meaning where limiting narratives of identity can be disrupted, re-articulated, and reinvented. Focusing on what is left untold, unseen, and absent, Maheke is particularly interested in embodied archives and knowledge. The three practitioners have come together around their shared desire to challenge the field of representation and its systems of categorization, to propose new, more abstract visual, sonic, and spatial forms of embodiment.

Levant focuses on the notion of translucency as a concept that, on the spectrum of visibility, sits somewhere in between opacity and transparency. It builds on a sequence of movements that are performed by Lewis and Maheke to the rhythm of a soundtrack composed by Nkisi and projected onto a double Holo-Gauze screen, rendering the dancers’ bodies in a translucent field of vision that oscillates between appearance and disappearance. 

Levant was filmed in a black box with solely a headlamp following the performers’ movements. The choreography, developed by Maheke and Lewis, forges a jumping in and out of movement as if in and out of the motion of a body. The distorted images, gestures and sounds, the mumbled words akin to spells being cast, spectral shadows, and long echoes serve as strategies to build a poetic and penetrating space that seeks to subvert the logic of representation by allowing for the possibility of withdrawal. 

Paul Maheke (b. 1985) graduated from Cergy School of Fine Arts and is an Open School East (London) alum. Recent solo exhibitions and performances include Sènsa (in collaboration with Nkisi), Performa Biennale 2019, New York; A Fire Circle for a Public Hearing at the Chisenhale gallery in London (2018) and Vleeshal Middelburg (2019); and I Lost Track of the Swarm at the South London Gallery (2016). Selected group exhibitions include Le centre ne peut tenir at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris (2018), Ten Days Six Nights at Tate Modern in London (2017), and the Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017).

Melika Ngombe Kolongo, aka Nkisi (b. 1985) is a headliner on the European experimental music circuit. Born in Kinshasa, Nkisi grew up in Belgium and studied at Narafi Arts Schools in Brussels and Birkbeck University in London. Over the years, Nkisi has championed exploring music and sound within a decolonial context. A recent example is Nkisi’s night of concerts and DJ sets titled Same Same Night II that she organized at Kunstencentrum Vooruit in Gent as part of the art center’s program Same Same but Different, a festival that examined Belgium’s history and its contemporary inscription within a global postcolonial network. Nkisi’s debut EP, Kill (2017), received critical acclaim from Pitchfork, Tiny Mixtapes, and FACT. Her latest solo album, 7 Directions, was released in January 2019.

Ligia Lewis (b. 1983) is a dancer and choreographer. She has worked in multiple contexts including that of the theatre and museum. Engaging with affect, empathy, and the sensate, her choreography considers the social inscriptions of the body while evoking its potentiality. Her work can be described as experientially rich and complex. Within her practice, Lewis continues to provoke the nuances of embodiment. In 2017, Lewis was awarded a Bessie for Outstanding Production for her latest stage work, minor matter, and in 2018, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award in the field of dance. Both of her stage works, minor matter (2016) and Sorrow Swag (2014), continue to tour internationally. Her latest stage work, Water Will (2018), was presented by Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement (Geneva), HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), and Performance Space New York, among others.